Now I know where I get my indecision from

Sunday January 19th 1941

C/o Miss Graham, 60 Hillhead Street, Glasgow W.2.

Gilbert my dear
I’ve tried and so far I just cannot write oftener — look you, here it’s Sunday night again and Part II of last Sunday’s letter still to be written. As it is I haven’t yet finished my Thank You letters for Christmas presents! And I simply cannot compete with your twenty eight pages per week — Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Laddie, you leave me gasping, because you must cook and sleep and eat — how in Heaven’s name you achieve all your correspondence too is more than I can guess. I fear I am one of the weaker brethren. Lack of strong mindedness to stop letters too — I should have written several this afternoon, but wrote twelve pages home instead (because my conscience pricked and warned me I’d been up a fortnight and one postcard on arrival didn’t count!) And of course I’ve been utterly occupied with people and things ever since I came up to town — really haven’t time to teach just now.
Like you, I’ve lots of news but I think I’d better answer your three last letters first and then we’ll be verging on getting up to date. Or won’t we? If I sort these ones out and then there’s another letter from you before you have this…
… Oh. Oh. oh. But mortals can but try.
Darling, you say the nicest things and always fling up a guarded apology in case your’re sounding sentimental. But you needn’t worry. Sentimentality doesn’t flourish beside sincerity like yours — there’s a king of honesty of thought (do you know I believe that’s what integrity is. It’s been only a word for me for so long, but I believe I recognise it now as a quality) in your letters that sweeps away every trace of the artificial.
You say “The fact is, as I’ve always suspected, in your earnest attempt to view the most important things in the Cold Light of Reason, you deceive yourself. I think — you may correct me coldly and soberly if you like! — that you feel one thing and think another” Dear it’s not that. If I were sure of what I feel, I’d come off my guard at once and to hell with thinking — in this matter anyway. But the trouble is I feel too much in two different directions — and that’s not according to the rules and I can’t help feeling it’s not Playing Fair (bless you for your gentle and courteous reassurances) and I’ve thought and thought till I can think no more, and I still don’t know. And I still hate people that dither — here’s my nemesis! Eric’s been very much in attendance this last ten days and he’s such a darling too. You both behave so very gallantly that I’m ashamed of my indecision and truly sorry for it, but I honestly can’t help it. I offered to say “No” to him now (he’s away yesterday, home, on his way to the R.A.F. at Loughborough) rather than have him wait and wonder, and he gave me almost exactly the same answer as you. It’s curious how alike you are — the things I most admire in him are the things I most admire in you — integrity and honesty and simple goodness and kindness and love of the south country and trees and beasts and youngsters and the enjoyment of living and using your mind oh and countless other things. And generosity of mind and, bless you both, seeing the diverting as well as the more serious side of the whole complicated situation. How I do love you both! He said with the ghost of a twinkle, “I see it’s 50-50. But sometimes it’s 45-55; and then again sometimes it’s 55-45?” Which just precisely sums it up, at present. Oh and it makes me so proud and so humble at the same time to be loved so truly. It’s the most enriching experience yet in a life that sometimes I feel couldn’t be richer. I wish I could deserve it better. It isn’t fair that I should have so much — I begin to agree with Miss Barr — almost! — “Of course you must appreciate Miss Goudie, that you are Exceptionally Fortunately Placed in your home and other circumstances…” And all I can say is “I know. I do. Really I do.”
And I must use the war as a kind of buffer until I’m surer of what I do feel, so I’m ignoring your express permission, the rhetorical question “What then?” about being engaged. Your paradox about being hurt and happy isn’t different to penetrate — it’s exactly what I’m feeling too, in a slightly different way — I’m getting absolutely no satisfaction out of the situation, it hurts and yet I’m so honoured and happy and grateful. And, whatever happens, I’ll never forget this wonderful autumn and winter when the future suddenly spread out and life flowered. What’s it Beckett says? (never realised how much I loved that play till my thoughts began to take up it’s language for clearer expression)
“Spring has come in winter. Snow in the branches shall float as sweet as blossoms. Ice along the ditches
Mirror the sunlight…” (Funny. Irrelevant comment, but there’s the opposite of Housman’s
“See the cherry, hung with snow”)
But you mustn’t wring my heart with things like “I doubt my happiness lies very much in your hand” You’re much too brave and self reliant for that to be true, and it would be an insult to you to believe it.
Yes, you shall have a photograph — I have really been meaning to have it taken for weeks but the days go by and it isn’t done.
Like your Poor child-Rich child contrast — shall indeed “bake you a cake as quick as I can” whenever I’m home again. And maybe toffee. Poor darlings. Glad you liked the chocolates — one very nearly has to have influence to get them nowadays, but I was lucky.
No dear, not a new dress. Pyjamas they was. And what do you mean by “again? Hivings!” Hivings, yourself! I haven’t had a new frock for months and months! — not since the early summer and for winter ones not since last October. Bah.
Destroyers are bonny bonny ships — would prefer you to be on one in peacetime all the same. But speaking aesthetically, yes, yes a destroyer. Aren’t sloops lovely? Saw a grey graceful beauty being built, summers ago on the Clyde and loved it.
And your text lesson! Ho and ho. I bet you enjoyed yourselves. But NO BEARDS I implore you. And what did I tell about the electric shaver? “Ten days grim effort,” bless you!
This is so short a letter but I must sleep. And it’s been so difficult and sticky. I expect that’s obvious to the reader! — because I’ve had to stop-an-think so much through it with the result that I’ve only answered one of your letters after all. But courage, mon brave. Oh and I’ve still all my news from the middle of last week, and it keeps piling up. And so many ideas to compare with you — got a whole set of new or rather discovered – old ones the other day.
O world! O life! O TIME!
Darling, I’ll always love you whether I marry you or not.

P.S. Did you ever get the Missing Skegness Letter? After two letters and two weeks I made a great effort and wrote to John Durkan — only to get a third letter — this time from Invergordon instead of Norfolk. Oh me.


5 thoughts on “Now I know where I get my indecision from

  1. This is utterly wonderful. So much life, so much delicate politeness and society rules and…I’m a bit in love with this letter 🙂 Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

  2. Viccy – this is a transript of one of my mother’s letters–it is quite exciting following her train of thought throughout the correspondence as she tries to decide which of two men she wants to marry. Particularly since my life depended on her choice!

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